Raw jute production in the country is set to fall 18 per cent in 2012-13, to 9.3 million bales (a bale is 332.5 kg), against 10.25 mb in 2011-12. This is mainly due to lower sown area, as farmers are shifting to other crops due to the non-remunerative prices from this fibre.
This estimate has been projected by the Jute Advisory Board (JAB) under the Union textiles ministry. Monsoon truancy in different growing areas is also a factor affecting likely output. “What was worrying the jute industry for the past two weeks is the amount of rainfall in south Bengal. The rain in this key cultivating area was deficient but it has picked up of late. Rainfall in Assam is expected to be better than last year. Overall, we hope the crop output would be in the range of 9.5-10 mb in 2012-13, marginally less than the previous year,” said Manish Poddar, chairman of the Indian Jute Mills Association (Ijma).
The area under cultivation has reduced by around 50,000 hectares (ha), a six per cent slide over last year, at 860,000 ha compared to 910,000 ha in 2011-12. Since 2000, the crop area has slumped 22 per cent, as farmers are veering to cultivation of other crops. That apart, traditional jute cultivating families are breaking up in the aftermath of the introduction of central social sector schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Even the 31 per cent rise in minimum support price (MSP) of jute this year is unlikely to stem the slide, says the industry. In March, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs raised the MSP of raw jute to Rs 2,200 per quintal from the earlier Rs 1,675 per qtl. Last year, many jute farmers of Murshidabad in West Bengal burnt their crops to protest the non-remunerative prices. The cultivation cost is around Rs 2,100 per qtl, observers say, and the yield is about 22 qtls per ha.
Jute is normally cultivated as an inter-crop between the two main agricultural seasons, rabi and kharif. Only five per cent of the green fibre is used for manufacturing the 1.6 million tonnes of jute goods every year. The cultivator uses the remaining fibre for manure and fuel.
Jute is raised in seven states — West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh.
Almost 75 per cent of raw jute is cultivated in West Bengal.